Tag Archives: emotional needs

Living in A Mature Culture, Part 7

Glitzy and exciting, but  urban sprawl has major disadvantages.
Glitzy and exciting, but urban sprawl has major disadvantages.

Daily life in a mature culture — now that we have looked at the possibility of a Victory City, what would daily life actually be like in such a city? As noted, I am proposing that the high-rise buildings would consist of a large number of village-like settings, where people would actually live much of their day-to-day activity.

A reminder: these postings are simply my thoughts on what it would be like to live permanently in a mature culture; I present them mainly to stimulate your thoughts.

  • Each “village” would consist of three floors within a high-rise complex, each complex perhaps holding approximately 30 “villages.”
    • As such, there would be a communal living floor sandwiched in two floors of private living/sleeping quarters.
      • Much would be modular, both for efficiency and minimal environmental impact.
    • Most food preparation and eating would be within the communal space, or in more central cafeteria-style buildings within the city.
      • There would be an emphasis that such food be both nutritious and of very high quality (not at all like the typical cafeteria of modern life).
    • Each village would consist of about 200 people, likely about 50 families, interacting with each other. There would be about 125 adults (including late teens), and about 75 younger children.
      • There would be extensive day-care facilities for child care (approximately 25 per village, or 625 per high-rise); essentially the village would raise the children, and children would be able to attend every process of village life.
      • school-aged children (approximately 2000 per high-rise) would attend school in the high-rise common area.
      • late teens would attend some kind of college or university, of which there would be 5 – 10 in the city, with the possibility of outreach to other cities.
    • The “adults” would meet several times per week in small groups, perhaps 10 people each, for personal development. Each week, there would also be a variety of local governance groups planning the needs and development of the village community, and a number of meetings with other groups outside the “village,” planning governance on a broader level.
      • The adults would be engaged in work activity 25 hours per week, 5 hours per day, approximately half of which would be virtual meetings or some kind of activity that could be performed without leaving the local village.
        • Children of all ages would be welcome at all activities.
      • Given that the cultural narrative would be that of a permanent state of sustainability, then perhaps most of adult life would be lived out in these environment.
        • We would no longer live the current cultural model of continuous improvement and discovery (such living is not compatible with being the dominant species of a finite planet).

Your thoughts? Would this be too commune-like? Would this be too sterile? Both Rupert Ross (Dancing With A Ghost) and Louis Herman (Future Primal) have a lot to say about this.

Ross, when reflecting on “primitive” native culture, notes (pp. 103-108):

Each generation’s turn at the wheel might include performances better or worse than the last, but they would be essentially the same performance, with the same set and script and plotting. . . .

We post-industrial societies, in contrast, seem to run a cross-country relay race, passing the baton to a generation that will never set foot upon the ground we have covered . . .

There is a temptation to conclude that such a repetitive existence would be boring in the extreme, that it would feel binding and imprisoning.

I suspect . . .  no such sense of limits. . . . they [native peoples] may have perceived their lives as holding a virtually limitless scope for challenge and accomplishment. . . .  their lives did not center on building things, but upon discerning things. Life’s challenge lay in observing and understanding the workings of the dynamic equilibrium of which they were a part, then acting so as to sustain a harmony within it rather than a mastery over it. One aspired to wisdom in accommodating oneself

. . . they sought that wisdom not only to better ensure survival but also as an end in itself, as something in itself exhilarating.

Herman notes (Kindle location 7130):

Our wilderness origins fashioned our creative self-consciousness, which is both expanded and balanced by following the primal dynamic: face-to-face communication within a caring community of individuals, passionate for living and learning in a mutually enhancing resonance with the natural world. This is the truth quest, and it is our primal inheritance. We can ignore it, or we can cultivate it in all our endeavors and bring it into a creative engagement with the reality we find ourselves caught up in: a civilization rushing to self-destruction while displaying tantalizing possibilities of a more beautiful, joyful way of life.

As a therapist of 25 years’ experience, centered largely in my own emotional growth, I know that exhilaration. Personally, although such “village” life as I am describing would have challenges, it could also be immensely satisfying.

To be continued.

Acedia and Evil

The desire to give up! Caught in despair.
The desire to give up! Caught in despair.

I’ve been reading some of the articles accessible through The Climate Mobilization website, especially those concerning what we are now learning about the risks of global warming, even at our current level. It is so much worse than I thought! And I regard myself as well-informed in this area. For me, the issues are so related to the acedia of our civilization.

Gradually we are shifting. More and more leaders are speaking out for the need for profound change. However, all that leaders can do is lead! It is followers that create the bulk of the change. We need the majority of our culture to speak out.

And there is some evidence that the cultural majority are aware of this need. Recent research suggests that 54% of people in four Western countries acknowledge high risk of our civilization ending, and 24% recognize the risk of human extinction, all in the next 100 years.

Acedia and Evil

In this post I want to finish with the topic of acedia, in particular the nature of evil.

In The Hope: A Guide To Sacred Activism, Andrew Harvey tells the story of a major agribusiness CEO who knew exactly what destruction he was causing to the lives of thousands of people, but proceeded anyway simply for the sense of power that it gave him. When I reflect on modern tragedies such as

  • the duplicity of British Petroleum in the 2010 Gulf environmental disaster,
  • ExxonMobil being aware of the impact of fossil fuel on global warming in the 1970s, and deliberately hiding this information (presumably for profit to the company),
  • the Koch brothers’ massive manipulation of the American political system,
  • and many other political-economic-environmental disasters of recent years,

I cannot but consider these actions as evil — the active antagonism of what life offers, the hiding for political-economic power. Such actions must be identified, and stopped, but there is the danger of focusing on these issues, rather than looking at the system (the Cultural Lie, including myself as part to this system) which allows such actions to develop.

The Banality of Acedia and Evil

I also know from Hannah Arendt’s work on the banality of evil and Milgram’s work on obedience to authority, that the possibility of evil is a fundamental human characteristic. I consider evil as the end-point of the spectrum of acedia, as shown in the accompanying diagram. The manifestations of acedia (self-righteousness, laziness, fearfulness) are not evil per se, but they set the stage for evil, especially the acceptance of evil acts by others, wherein acedia displays as an attitude of “it doesn’t matter,” “who cares?,” or “it can’t be helped.”

AcediaSpectrum1

Yet the fundamental difficulty of evil is the attempt to eliminate evil — it sets a false dichotomy of us against them, and if only we eliminate them, things will be fine. When we as individuals fail to recognize how our silence and/or tokenism in the Climate Lie perpetuates the system, we support the evil of actions such as above.

As a culture, we have enjoyed the benefits of technology, and have been unwilling to recognize or pay the costs. We live gross inequality, with massive world poverty (amidst conclaves of richness), extensive hunger (especially starvation of  children), mistreatment of minorities (especially women in underdeveloped countries), waste and pollution (our garbage accumulates), amongst other inequities. We live the acedia cycle, especially in our lack of charity in resolving these issues. We have extensive “charitable organizations,” yet as a culture we lack the charity to resolve these  difficulties.

So what to do? Most of the power is held by those who are creating the inequality, mainly the leaders of the multi-national corporations. (Likely only a small minority of these corporations — I presume most are honorable, but we must find a way through so as to disempower those that create the most disruption of equitable society. And in any event, I am not interested in created the us versus them dilemma.)

The Need for Civil Disobedience

Gier (2006), in Three Principles of Civil Disobedience: Thoreau, Gandhi, and  King, notes that effective civil disobedience requires that:

  • one maintain respect for the rule of law even while disobeying the specific law perceived as unjust;
  • one should plead guilty to any violation of the law; and
  • one should attempt to convert the opponent by demonstrating the justice of one’s

I believe that civil disobedience is the only route that we can take. To engage in evil to combat evil will not lead to a mature culture. We have made attempts, such as the Occupy movement, but they need to continue.

Are we worthy of being a mature culture? I hope so.

The Threshold of Anxiety in Global Warming

As anxiety diminishes, people engage more.
As anxiety diminishes, people engage more.

So what are the factors that block engagement in global warming?

In a recent podcast The Big Man Can’t Shoot, journalist Malcolm Gladwell identifies the need for social approval as a major factor in effective choice. Gladwell tells the story of a legendary basketball player with only one flaw: his success rate at free throws from the foul line was only about 40%. He was coached by a colleague whose success rate was 93%, and was able to improve himself to 87% — a huge advance and one that could make him almost unstoppable. The catch: he had to make “granny shots” — underhand throws rather than overhead shots, that are the standard of the league. And he wouldn’t do so — because he would look “silly.” Nor would other players, again because they would be breaking the unspoken norms of play — even though they would be better players!

What Gladwell identified was what I call the threshold of anxiety that must be overcome when one’s behavior does not match the common deportment of the peer group, the so-called peer pressure that exists within any group, even when unspoken. The threshold level varies from person to person, but always is a factor in the decision to act. This means that for any individual, a certain number of their trusted peers have to act in a certain way before they themselves will undertake the action.

Translating this to the need for massive mobilization in response to global warming, there is potentially a large body of the public waiting for others to act before they themselves will engage significantly. Many of these people will be those I identified in my last post as those people who are chronically overwhelmed by too much stuff. Salamon in Living In Climate Truth goes into more depth as to how individuals use intellectual denial, emotional denial, and tokenism to avoid action to maintain the Climate Lie that all is well, and someone else will resolve the issues. Or the individual believes that nothing can be done, and settles into low-grade cynicism, contaminating others in major ways.

Potentially when enough others have shifted into effective action, there could then be a snowball effect in response. But when? Will it occur soon enough to forestall disastrous effect?

I suspect not. To use myself as example, I started hearing about environmental issues in the 1960s and 1970s, and had enough background in science (degrees in physics and biophysics by that point) to know that we humans were doing significant damage to the environment. But I was “too busy with other issues” in my life. Fast forward to the 1990s when I had a small acreage in Ontario, land that I actually regarded as sacred — I knew “activists” who were challenging government regulations, but “I wasn’t an activist.” Then in 2009 when I finally got it, I was in deep despair for months, and only in the past year did my resolve crystallize. So if it has taken me this long, what chance do we have as a species?

Yet, if I accept this line of reasoning, it is likely that nothing effective will happen. I must act into the assumption that many are waiting in the wings simply for the snowball effect.

There is no question in my own mind that I am angry at the complexity and frequent ineffectiveness of my culture. I am not angry at individuals; I am angry at the systemic morass we have created — but if I allow my anger to take over, I will burnout. It’s a no-win situation. I’m very good at anger management, including my own. So, often I fall back on simple affirmations such as “Let Go; Let God,” or “High Intention, Low Attachment.”

What I don’t know how to do is how to get people to engage. Currently, I am reading Joe Romm’s Language Intelligence: Lessons on Persuasion from Jesus, Shakespeare, Lincoln, and Lady Gaga for some hints. Many days I’m convinced I am a slow learner.

Coming next: The nature of acedia.

Acedia underlies global warming

It's all too much.
It’s all too much.

Have you ever asked yourself how we have ended up with the problems of global warming? Or what stops us from solving these issues? We have avoided resolution of the issues for more than 50 year now. The superficial issue of global warming is technological, but what keeps us stuck is emotional?

First of all, the issues are incredibly complex; they overwhelm our political, economic and ethical systems (see Reason In A Dark Time: Why The Struggle Against Climate Change Failed — And What It Means To Our Future) — witness the repeated failures or only limited success of the United Nations Convention on Climate Change COP meetings, most recently in Paris, December 2015 — a non-binding agreement to limit global warming to 2°C, hopefully to 1.5°C. Scientific American in April 2016 indicated “The average global temperature change for the first three months of 2016 was 1.48°C” — and that does not include normal overshoot as the system stabilizes (see here for excellent visual representations of how all this has occurred since 1880).

But it’s only 1.5 degrees — so what. Well, look around at the superstorms and the changing weather patterns. They are only the beginning of potential “natural” disasters, at a temperature increase of less than 1.5 degrees. The earth is a very finely balanced ecosystem, with many feedback mechanisms to ensure stability, and we are exceeding the limits of these systems. It is likely that, by 2°C, we will have irreversible changes, including loss of at least 33% of all species on the planet (not yet us, though). By 3°, we could well be into run-away feedback loops that are not reversible, with almost certain loss of civilization for thousands of years, and perhaps our extinction.

But why? I know the issues are complex, and the propensity of modern life is to leave it to the experts. But why have we gotten to this dilemma in the first place? And why are we so passive about global warming? The scientific community is in agreement (at least 97% consensus), but the political morass wages on. Given all this, why do we not stand up and demand change? We actually do, in small ways: witness the Occupy movement, Avaaz, the many activists, but there is not the overwhelming process that we really need. Nor do the many small ways seem to be coming together in coordinated fashion.

So for the next few postings, I am going to be exploring what I believe is blocking us. Essentially I will propose that various features of acedia have been a major part of the problem.

It is possible that in the next few postings I will seem to be critical of almost every human being (including myself) in Western civilization. That is not my intention, but I do want to identify processes that affect almost everyone. Perhaps what I am identifying could be called “the elephants in the room that nobody talks about.” If you feel criticized, please understand that I have the deepest compassion for the struggles of living in the modern era.

The vast majority of people I know are good people — they do many good actions, but they are simply overwhelmed with too much stuff: too much information, too many demands, et cetera. In my book Acedia, I referred to a TED talk on apathy, and also suggested that the numerous subtle difficulties of modern life have become a form of trauma, constantly wearing us down. And in all this, to pay attention to the demands of global warming has just become another demand, especially when confused by the dis-information regarding climate change.

I believe that these people get on with their lives hoping that somehow the “experts” will eventually fix the problem, but I remain doubtful. Over time, I have moved to the stance advocated by The Climate Mobilization as noted in my previous post: the personal costs will be high, but the risks are simply too great.

I suggest there are three mechanisms at play:

  • collective behaviour of groups: in order to act (and overcome fear of criticism), human beings need to exceed a certain threshold of anxiety
  • acedia: a human characteristic is the risk of laziness, fearfulness, and/or self-righteousness as a way to avoid painful experience
  • evil: a more important human characteristic is that which deliberately sabotages movement towards health

In some fashion, acedia is part of all three. I will be commenting on each of these in the next few posts.

Coming next: The threshold of overcoming anxiety

Jamieson, D. (2014). Reason in a Dark Time: Why the Struggle Against Climate Change Failed — and What It Means for Our Future. Oxford, UK: Oxford University Press.

Global Warming: My Stance

I truly wonder if we will survive as a species.
I truly wonder if we will survive as a species.

I’ve been ill for the past week, still somewhat frail — it has given me an opportunity to think about what I really want, and why I am writing this blog. Succinctly, I believe that as a species we are on a suicide mission, and as a culture we are incredibly angry; you only have to look at the American politics to see how angry we are, and you only have to look at other situations to see how frustrated. I want to have a positive impact in changing all this.

Therapist: anger management

For almost 25 years, I taught anger management, and I was good. A judge would sometimes specify my weekend program as part of his judgments, to the exclusion of other better-known programs. A Probation Officer send me more that 60 clients for domestic issues over the years — he could only recall two who re-offended (after a while, he kept informal count, and eventually he gave me detailed feedback, published in my book Blowing Out The Darkness). Not all angry people end up with probation issues, but only two poor outcomes out of sixty is astounding.

During my career, I generally noted that my long-term clients fell into two groups. One group was very active in personal growth, and would change their lives in astounding ways; personal growth itself can be painful — these people would work through the pain, arriving at places in their lives where they were deeply satisfied.

My Acedia Clients

The second group was inactive. I came to characterize them as lazy and/or fearful. I am not intending to be pejorative, simply descriptive. By lazy I mean they would say they would do the work, and then produce no results other than excuses. By fearful, they would talk about how painful the work would be if they did it, and that they were afraid of the consequences (they were fearful — this was not fear!).

I eventually came to the conclusion that these issues were a broad reflection of their (unconscious) refusal to be authentic (so-called existential issues) and/or a refusal to engage in the profound beauty of life (one of my definitions of spiritual). I also know that I had no tools to offer — laziness and fearfulness were choices, and all I could do was to challenge the client to live authentically. (Actually, if the client accepted the challenge, the therapy became easy.)

PhD: Climate Change

After about 25 years, I recognized that I needed a break from my career, and the opportunity came for me to do my PhD at a university that emphasized authenticity. I decided that here was my opportunity to study laziness and fearfulness, and started on that journey. (I soon added self-righteousness, and subsumed all three under an ancient word acedia.)

Early in the course work, we were talking about the current state of our society, especially global warming. Given my first university degree was in physics, I easily understood the science and mechanics of global warming — I recognized we were on a suicide course, the extinction of the human species, no ifs! It is that serious. I was devastated, and it took me almost two years to get out of my despair (now long gone, but with residual sadness). So my dissertation became the relationship between acedia and global warming, eventually resulting in my second book Acedia, The Darkness Within, and the darkness of climate change.

Travels

For the next few years, I travelled, and saw a lot of the Caribbean, South America, and some of Europe. I also pondered one of my favorite expressions: “As individual human beings, we are capable of incredible greatness, but as a species, we are psychotic.” (Introverts, especially hermits, are very good at pondering.)

Global warming is a technological issue, but we do not resolve it. We have known about the issues for approximately 50 years, but we have continued on a path of denial and greed, such that now it might be too late. I hope not, and I intend to live as if it is not too late.

And global warming is simply the outcome of our hubris as a species. For perhaps millions of years, the Homo species has lived as hunter-gatherers. Ten thousand years ago (a drop in the bucket), we started to create civilizations through the dynamics of power. Eventually came scientific materialism, our marvelous technology, with hidden costs. And in our hubris, we did not want to pay the costs. Hence, we are where we are . . .

What I Want

About a year ago, after much vacillation, I decided this was not good enough. This is not how I want to spend my life, pondering. I have skills that are important to this whole struggle.

The world needs to mobilize its forces to deal with the ills of civilization. I can assist with this, although it is not my strong point. First, it must be mobilized to resolve global warming, likely at the level demonstrated in the States at the beginning of their direct contribution in the 1940s (see The Climate Mobilization). Second, we must create a more humane culture, one that honors the whole of the planet.

My skill is in being a resource to people who want to do the work. I believe there is a huge amount of anger in the world, even in the people who are doing the work. There is nothing wrong with anger, provided it does not lead to violation, but anger poorly managed leads to burnout, and burnout is not useful to doing the work. And I am very good at the management of both anger and burnout.

Next: What underlies global warming — the nature of acedia.

This post is part of what I am calling the core posts for understanding what I am attempting by this blog. For other core posts, click here.

A Future City: Daily Living, Part 6

Glitzy and exciting, but  urban sprawl has major disadvantages.
Glitzy and exciting, but urban sprawl has major disadvantages.

Daily life in a mature culture — now that we have looked at the possibility of a Victory City, what would daily life actually be like in such a city? As noted, I am proposing that the high-rise buildings would consist of a large number of village-like settings, where people would actually live much of their day-to-day activity.

Let me flesh it out a lot, with a bit of imagination. I’m in a dilemma though — I want to provide details of my vision, mainly to have something to bounce against, but I am also fearful that I will lose the reader if I get too detailed, too utopian, to hold interest. But I do so because such visioning is what I am encouraging in our society — we need a sustainable vision so as to more forward to what we want, not away from what we don’t want. Such is life!

Here is an overview. I strongly value Herman’s characteristics of individuation, relationship as primary, face-to-face democracy, and the need for a mythic narrative. So, for me, the needs are:

  • personal development of individuals,
  • relationships that maximize diversity and cooperation,
  • village life as the source of interaction,
  • the ending of consumerism, and
  • the sustainability and resilience of our planet.

To accomplish this, I suggest we must maximize both:

  • modular production of consumable products (minimizing footprint and waste while preserving effectiveness of function), and
  • individual creativity and expressiveness.

A tall order. Utopian in many respects, but still for me a vision of a creative life. There could be a lot of uniformity in the mundane areas of life (extensive modular design would keep the industrial impact to a minimum), and there could be much creativity and diversity of the smaller aspects. For example, buildings throughout the world could be quite uniform, but the manner in which they were decorated, externally and internally, could be incredibly diverse.

I am assuming that, if:

  • the basic needs of food, shelter, education, and health were provided, and
  • people throughout the planet were orientated to a balance of diversity and community, placing high value on personal development and creativity rather than consumerism,

then there would be little need for money and private property, and a large need for individual creativity.

Suppose, then:

  • the planetary population was one billion (1,000,000,000) people
  • there were 5000 cities of 200,000 people each
    • each city would occupy about 10 square miles (much smaller than current cities today), with extensive wilderness surrounding.
      • the wilderness areas would be available for exploration, provided the human impact was well managed.
    • each city would specialize in a limited number of activities (in modular fashion) required by the world population.
      • these might consist of some kind of industrial production, or some kind of artistic production such as film or theatre, all of which could be distributed to other cities, either in physical form (industrial) or virtual (artistic)
    • each city would consist of 40 high-rise buildings of 5000 people each
      • there would be another 40 low-rise buildings for such activities as food production, transportation, maintenance, et cetera
        • all buildings would be green buildings (see the Manchester Retrofit of the previous post)
          • most mundane activities would be automated to a major extent, but activities enjoyed by human personnel (e.g., garden care and cooking) would be encouraged
        • each high-rise would be 90 floors
          • 15 floors for high-rise common area, such as schools and hospitals, and/or industrial activity.
            • full medical and educational facilities would be present in each high-rise, with advanced facilities located in some of the out-buildings.
            • most industrial activity would be automated, requiring only limited supervision and/or the equivalent of sophisticated machinists. Much could be done under remote control with sophisticated electronics.
          • 75 floors of village-like living groups
            • every 3 floors would be a village of 200 people
            • each village would consist of 2 floors living area, with 1 common floor sandwiched between
          • connections within high-rises and between buildings would all be by high-volume, high-speed elevators and walkways, minimizing travel time within the city, and almost eliminating the use of personal vehicles.

I will continue next post with the characteristics of these village sandwiches.

A Mature Culture: Daily Living? (Part 5)

Glitzy and exciting, but major disadvantages.
Glitzy and exciting, but major disadvantages.

Daily life in a mature culture — more musings. In the last few posts, I have suggested that “therapy groups” would be the norm for personal development. I now want to chunk up to what would cities be like, possibly shifting back and forth between daily life and city life for the next few posts.

First of all, village life has been part of human existence for thousands of years — it is what we were designed for in hunter-gatherer communities. The disadvantage of separate villages, of hunter-gatherer life, was starvation (Rupert Ross makes this very clear in his book Dancing With A Ghost.) The advance (?) into civilization, especially that of industrialization, then required that people move to cities so as to optimize resources, human and otherwise. And although there are major advantages to city life, the downsides are massive: concrete jungles, a lot of marginalization, et cetera. In a mature culture, we must find a balance between these forces, optimizing the advantages of each — the issue is that of a polarity difficulty, not an either/or situation.

In my explorations, I have encountered two examples that I really like (although each has significant disadvantages compared to my current individualistic lifestyle). The first is the greening of current day cities, such as the retrofitting of Manchester, with green streets, walls, and buildings; rooftop food production; and extensive photovoltaic energy production. Obviously, only a little different from our current world; technologically possible, but what about our emotional needs? From my perspective, very feasible if we truly step into a wisdom culture. The disadvantage would be the footprint of cities, precluding small group face-to-face discussion on most issues; this can be minimized with efficient technology, but I suggest that technology is not perfect, and does not replace the need for direct human contact. The greening of current cities could be a temporary measure, but I suggest some kind of village milieu is still needed.

Contrasting cities, with interesting options.
Contrasting cities, with interesting options.

I therefore favor the Victory City, the semi-utopian concept of Orville Simpson II, cities of approximately 200-300K people, self-contained and self-sufficient based on a land footprint of 3 square miles (compared to a modern city of similar size occupying over 200 square miles). I suggest the design[1] is very feasible if we truly step into a wisdom culture.

With the Victory City model, assuming it was widely copied, there would be approximately 6,000 cities across the world. Although I was initially reluctant to envision living in such a high-rise complex (102 floors) as Victory City, I am now more convinced of its design structure. Its small footprint means extensive wilderness areas. Local transportation would be by extensive high volume, high-speed elevators, both between floors and between buildings. Living units would predominantly be bedroom areas and privacy areas, rather than the extensive private living quarters of present day modern life. All food production is on-site, with only a small amount obtained from other centers. Most food service would be within large high-volume cafeterias. Its small size would allow easy access of work locations and of outdoor recreational facilities.

High-rise living, with many possible features.
High-rise living, with many possible features.

The change that I would make in a Victory City would be that the high-rises would consist of village-like sandwiches, every three floors being two floors of private living space with an intervening village-like common between. Such an arrangement would maximize face-to-face discussion of important issues (intersubjectivity), shared decision making in trusted groups (direct democracy). I would also want to maximize efficient electronic communication so as to allow people to truly live and work within their village-like environments.

Next posting, I will explore how daily living conditions would function in a Victory City.

Your thoughts?

To be continued.

[1] After his death, Simpson donated his work on Victory Cities to the University of Cincinnati; I have not found easy access to his work from this source. However, when I was doing my PhD, I was verbally granted me access for usage in my dissertation, although I never received written permission.

A Mature Culture: Daily Living? (Part 4)

Adults learn best in cooperation.
Adults learn best in cooperation.

Daily life in a mature culture — more musings. In the last post, I suggested that “therapy groups” would be the norm for personal development. What would this be like?

These would be gatherings in small group for honest dialogue, likely weekly or twice a week. Adults learn best by having significant emotional experiences, and then reflecting on them in the presence of trusted adults. This would be a place of honesty, emotional expression, and compassionate reflection — one of the best examples I have of something like this is the aboriginal justice circles (Rupert Ross, Indigenous Healing: Exploring Traditional Paths), where there is no sense of guilt or shame evoked. Another example would be the work of Roy Madron on Gaian Democracies — an excellent example of cultural maturity, ranging from individual group process to world governance.

In-depth personal work requires a facilitator — as human beings, we are past masters at avoiding our own issues, and a good facilitator can point out to us that we are avoiding an issue, or alternatively, can point out to us something that we are missing, even if it seems obvious. Such facilitators will be part of the ongoing village community, and in many circumstances can arise spontaneously through recognition of their maturity by others within the community.

One of my mentors suggested that a good facilitator-therapist has three characteristics, in reverse order of importance:

  1. they have a theoretical framework within which they work. This framework is seldom of use in the moment, but provides a way to talk about what was done, after the fact.
  2. they have practical experience working with people, usually with ongoing supervision by other therapists, either their peers or more mature therapists.
  3. they do their own personal work; they have struggled with their own demons, and know the value of compassion. This is the most important characteristic.

There are a number of fundamental skills that a therapist requires, independent of the theoretical framework, skills that are only learned by one’s own personal work. For me, most important amongst these skills are:

  • the value of powerlessness.
    • The most succinct way I have of describing this is the statement of Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane: “If it is possible, Oh Lord, let this cup be taken from me. If not, Thy Will be done!” It is the process of acceptance of what is, or what must be based on one’s values.
  • the willingness to risk.
    • Personal growth is high risk. The individual will certainly risk feeling powerless, and potentially fall into pain as he or she confronts issues wherein he or she is not acting according to values that are important to this individual. (Such values may not be important to the group, or may actually be opposed by the group; this may actually be important for the growth of the group.)
    • There are many times where a good therapist must risk just as much as the client; it is frequently the place where the therapist grows, both personally and professionally.
  • the willingness to meet the client in their own world (the process of rapport).
    • Sometimes this means reflection with the client in their pain; sometimes it means getting in their face so as to demonstrate the impact of something such as self-righteousness. Again, it may entail risk.
  • the use of silence.
    • Silence is a very powerful tool, and used well, can be very therapeutic. It may be part of rapport; it may be part of risk.

We are not born knowing all we need to know; that is what the human journey is — the opportunity to grow in maturity. And our current culture is abysmal in this process. I have said many times that, as individuals we are capable of incredible greatness, but as a species we are psychotic — we tolerate numerous inequalities, of people, of education, of food availability, of basic necessities.

If we actually resolved these inequalities, we would still need living in small village-like environments, exposed to the processes I am exploring at the moment. But it would be so much easier to achieve and maintain maturity!

Your thoughts?

To be continued.

A Mature Culture: Daily Living? (Part 3)

What sustains your life?
What sustains your life?

Daily life in a mature culture — my musings continue (I will continue with acedia in a few weeks when I finish with my thoughts regarding a mature culture). In the last posts, I suggested at least two three-hour sessions a week for in-depth personal work. What would this be like?

For most of my career as a physician, I was a psychotherapist. I hate the term (therapy, that is) — it is so misunderstood in our culture, and still today, people who go to therapists are regarded as less than competent. For me, therapy is the only place in modern life where the skills of being a mature human being are explored. And hence, for me, “therapy” will be the norm in a mature culture. It will just be called growth.

Also, for most of my career, I did group psychotherapy, as opposed to individual psychotherapy. I did this for two reasons:

  • I was a physician, and hence almost all of my work was covered by the provincial health plan. On the occasions when I moved from one town to another, I would have a waiting list within three weeks — and within six months, the waiting list would be two years long. When I was doing group work, I had no waiting list; I simply added clients to existing groups, or I added another group to the week. It was simply more efficient to practice group psychotherapy.
    • On occasion, I would still see clients for the occasional individual sessions, especially when there was the need to explore issues of privacy or trust before bringing the difficulties back into a group setting. Eventually, when people learn to trust each other, such individual sessions were no longer needed.
  • I considered group therapy to be more effective. Clients learned that other people had similar problems, and they also learned from each other. My goal was to take the client to a level where they could do their own therapy — they learned this faster when they saw other clients struggling with their own issues.

I had three basic rules when working with people, rules I told clients when the need arose:

  1. I was willing to do up to 50% of the work; on occasion more, but not routinely. Even the best of people avoid issues, and it was not my job as therapist to make them work.
  2. If at all possible, we (the client and myself) would have fun! People learn more effectively when they are having fun.
  3. If anyone was going to be frustrated (in the therapy session), it was not going to be me. Now guess who will be!

I assume these three rules would still be necessary in a mature culture, but less so.

Your thoughts?

To be continued.

A Mature Culture: Daily Living? (Part 2)

LivingWell

To continue my musings concerning daily life in a mature culture — I am suggesting that human beings would essentially live within small village-like environments, nested within larger communities which would provide more sophisticated resources.

If we were to do away with most of the consumerism of our current society and live such that much of what was needed was provided in modular fashion, I imagine that work life would be greatly simplified with fewer daily hours of toil, and much greater opportunity for creative endeavors. I am going to assume that the work week would be five days of five hours each, with shift work as necessary for some tasks (perhaps many tasks). With good technology, many tasks could be accomplished electronically, and many meetings attended electronically. So I will assume that the average person leaves the local village environment three days a week, and remains in the local environment for the other two (see future posts for some exceptions).

I also assume that if I lived in a culture that truly honored personal development and the effective resolution of conflict, much of my work time would actually be pleasurable. If education was not a limitation, most people would devote their time to the creative aspects, leaving the drudgery to robotics, for example. Thus I would not be exhausted at the end of work, whatever the type of work. One of the aspects of being a therapist that I really enjoyed was that essentially I was paid to do my own emotional growth work, exploring with others as they struggled with their own issues, but at the same time providing creative opportunity for me — thus it was seldom that I came away feeling exhausted (almost exclusively this occurred when I was caught in my own issues with the client, wanting them to change so as to fix my own pain).

Effectively living a 25-hour work week, without the hassles imposed by consumerism, leaves a huge amount of time! How might I spend it?

My first question: how many hours do you the reader spend on your own personal development? How many hours would be needed, especially if you were truly committed to the Truth Quest as described by Herman?

I mentioned before that I believe the basis of personal development is that of meditation and journal writing. To this I would also add some form of physical activity, of which my preference is hatha yoga. All three are primary ways in which I access my other-than-conscious mind. For me, personal development depends on an integration of conscious and other-than-conscious mind, my conscious mind providing direction, my other-than-conscious providing life energy.

In the early days of my mid-life transition when I was in my 40s, I was dealing with much of my own personal pain. I found I needed three hours a day for my own personal work — an hour of meditation, journal-writing, and yoga. On top of that I also needed to spend at least another 8-10 hours a week engaged in my own therapy. At a later stage of my life, when I was creatively engaged in my work as therapist, I needed about an hour and a half: half an hour of each discipline. Now, towards the end of my eldership transition, I need about two hours a day. In both of these latter aspects, the creativity replaces the need for therapy.

So, on average, my answer as to how much time is needed for personal development is:

  • about two hours a day, plus
  • two three-hour sessions for in-depth work.

That may seem like a lot of time — but given that human beings are pain avoiders (and hence often avoid both personal development and the seeking of conflict resolution — both of which are often painful), it will be necessary time. As a species, we must do the work of overcoming our propensity to viciousness and self-righteousness; giving lip service to life change, and all the suggestions of what we should do, will not provide the outcomes we need.

Your thoughts?

To be continued.